Man, it’s been a year, hasn’t it? As I sit in my cozy Williamsburg apartment, far from the beach side studio I lived in for most of 2016, the physical manifestation of change stares me right in the face. I know 2016 was not the year that most expected, and it certainly wasn’t necessarily the best year ever in my life, but I think the years that challenge us and truly catapult us into new universes are the years that truly are great in our lives. I remember sitting in my studio in South Florida, candles lit and phone off so I could reflect on the decision to take a new job or continue at the same pace where I was. As I was searching the silence for answers, I read a quote that said you should always choose the decision that scares you because that is the one that is going to change your life and make an impact. So, I chose the decision that scared me, and left everything familiar behind. As I reflect on that decision, and other things that happened to pop up and surprise me from life this year, I realized that this difficult, endless year has taught me some pretty valuable lessons that are sure to make 2017 a bit sweeter. Here’s my ‘sweet 16’:
- You can love someone and not be meant to be with them.
- Bedrest can be a good thing.
Over the summer, I got into a car accident, and two weeks later was driving my own car to work and ended up having a stabbing pain out of nowhere up my side. I barely was able to drive myself to the hospital, and had to have a gardener come get me from my car and help me in. I spent a week in the hospital and had two emergency surgeries. My life was completely interrupted. I had to spend the next few weeks completely in bed, something I am definitely not used to. At first, I struggled, but then I realized that being stuck in bed forced me to think about a lot of things I needed to think about and had been ignoring. The time on bedrest ended up allowing me to meditate and ‘reset’ so I came out on the other side of the surgery a stronger, more clear-headed person.
- Sometimes you need to shut the world out and trust your gut, even when no one else does.
I once read something that said you should never let someone else make a decision for you who does not have to live with the consequences of that decision. That statement changed my life. Many times the people giving us advice do not have all of the pieces we do, which is why it is important we are making our own decisions. For example, someone might encourage you to stay in your relationship because all they see are happy photos on social media, when in reality you are losing sleep at night and your health is suffering because of fights that are happening behind closed doors. It’s also important to know that your decisions are not always going to be popular with your close group of family and friends, and that’s okay.
- Loving what you do means absolutely everything.
A job change was in store for me this year and man, was it a good one! When you feel like what you are doing is for a good cause and aligns with your values, it is a whole other ball game.
- There is a difference between religion and your relationship with God.
I had the opportunity to visit and become involved with a couple of different churches over the past year, which created many lessons for me about the difference between organized religion and your personal relationship with God. While organized religion is great, it’s important to not let it overcome your own views and dedication to Christ. It’s easy to let human influence determine your faith, when that should be between you and God. How you live your life out as an individual is a hundred times more important than covering your shoulders at church. I’d much rather be a good person with morals than a bitchy person who follows all of the legalistic rules of the church.
- Pulling the band-aid off slowly only hurts more people in the end.
I wrote a post about this (How To Let Go When You Are Paralyzed) and it has proven to be true. I’ve learned this year that it is so much better to deal with things head on, rather than slowly let them come to pass.
- First instincts count.
I had some first instincts about some people and situations over the past year that I ignored, and instead went full steam ahead into the situations. A year later, I found out that my first instincts were right on, and I could have spared myself a lot of grief by trusting them in the first place. It’s easy to try to convince ourselves to ignore the things we want to ignore, but often times those are the exact things that we should be paying attention to.
- Listen to your body.
I was getting headaches every night and every morning for a couple of months this year and chose to ignore them. My parents said that I needed to take stock of what was going in my life because my body was most likely trying to tell me something. Sure enough, as soon as I changed some stressful situations, the headaches stopped. There’s a meditation I do through the Chopra Center that I absolutely love because it forces you to examine where you have pain in your body and then think about what in your life might be causing that pain. This is a good way to recognize what non-physical issues in your life might be physically manifesting themselves in your body.
- The friends you never think of as best friends can actually turn out to be the greatest.
When I went into the hospital this year, the some friends that I thought would be there weren’t, and the friends that I never even knew were my friends showed up. A lovely girl who I only met one other time in person ended up not only bringing me gifts, but taking me to the hospital when I had complications from my surgery. We are now incredibly close. You honestly can’t brush off people that you think are just acquaintances, it’s amazing how many are actually incredible friends.
- You have to ask for what you want.
A lot of these are relating to my surgeries this year, but, hey, those were a large chunk of my 2016. When I was sick, I suddenly was forced to ask people for things-- which is one of the most difficult things for me to do. I literally could not pull myself up out of the bed to do things for myself, which put me in a very uncomfortable position. I had to learn how to ask for what I needed, and know that it was okay to rely on others sometimes. I also learned that some people love it when you take them up on their offer to help because it makes them feel like they are contributing.
- You can’t ignore important parts of your life and expect them to thrive.
I let some fairly important parts of my life slip through the cracks in 2016 as I tried to manage everything else. When I finally had a wakeup call a few months ago, I was shocked to see just how much my lack of attention to those things made them suffer. It’s easy to brush important things to us to the side when life gets hectic, but that’s usually exactly when we need those important things in our life.
- People have their time and their place, and it’s not 100 percent up to you to decide where/when.
Talk about letting go of the need to the control. I’m a Type A personality that likes to think I know exactly who I need and when I need them. Life likes to laugh at this fact and sporadically drop people in and out of my life. Something I learned this year is that life knows a whole lot more than I do as to when I do, or don’t, need certain people.
- Hard work pays off.
I spent a lot of this year working hard on projects and relationships that I weren’t sure were going anywhere. Working in social media, I’m accustomed to a pretty quick payoff to work. However, as the year went on I felt like I was putting a lot of work in, but not sure what I was getting back. My mother had multiple conversations with me this year telling me to remain patient, and God was preparing me for something great. As 2016 closes out, I can say with certainty that she was 100 percent right :)
- Love is messy.
I’m not sure this is something I actually need to tell any of you. I feel like it’s something we all come to learn at one point or another. This year put love under a microscope for me, though, and it was a huge mess. Before this year, I wrote off love as not being love if it started getting confusing and complicated. This year, I learned that love is not black and white and has so many different angles to it. Just because you love someone, doesn’t mean it is perfect, or that it is going to work out. That doesn’t make the love any less worthy or meaningful, though.
- You can’t blame yourself for circumstances.
Between multiple surgeries, a car accident, etc. my circumstances played a huge part in my life in 2016. I found myself getting completely caught up in everything going on, which was weighing on my own self esteem and self worth. Eventually, I had to take a step back and recognize that I was not responsible for the car accident. I was not responsible for the surgeries. The only thing I was responsible for was my reaction to them, and getting through them with grace, faith and a positive attitude. Realizing that made all the difference.
- Let go and let God.
I’d heard this phrase before this year, but it really did carry true meaning for me until the last couple of months. I was trying to hold on so tightly to some things this year that just were not meant to be in my life, and when I chose to finally let go and let God take control, everything fell into place. Most of the time our instincts tell us to hold on tighter to things that we feel are slipping away, when letting go actually gives us the space we need to deal with the situation and figure out what the right move is.
What are some lessons you learned in 2016? Share them in the comments below!
- Marji J. Sherman